Why had he thought he’d wanted to be alone? His mind wasn’t a quiet void. In fact, it was a damn unpleasant place to be today.

He stripped and removed his prosthesis. Grabbing his crutches, he headed for the shower. He remained under the steaming spray until his fingers were pruny and he’d run out of tears.

Five minutes after he crawled between the sheets and lay there in the darkness, staring at the ceiling, he heard Domini enter their bedroom and lock the door. Then her warm, naked body slid next to his. Her cool hands caressed his face.

He sighed. This woman filled his life with more happiness than he’d ever known. She deserved better than a man who retreated when his dark edges emerged. But better to be a ghost of a man who disappeared rather than a monster of a man who pointed a gun at her and pulled the trigger.

“The kids are in bed.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t help with them tonight. I know they—”

“Cam. Baby. It’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.”

He squeezed his eyes shut against a rush of tears. He turned his head and kissed the inside of her wrist. “I love you.”

“I know you do. I also know you probably don’t want to talk about what happened.” Her fingers ruffled the hair on his chest. “Even though your body is still, I can tell you’re restless.”

His cock was starting to stir with her every teasing caress over his skin. Definitely not suffering from whiskey dick.

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“Let me help you with that restlessness, Cam.” Her fist closed around his thickening shaft. “Just relax and let me ease you.”

His whole body seized up. Ease him? Like she was doing him a goddamned favor? He half-snarled, “Is this a pity fuck?” before he could bite it back.

But his sexy wife emitted a throaty laugh and lightly slapped his dick. “Yes, because it’s such a chore to put my hands all over your strong body. It’s pure torture. I don’t know how I’ll ever bear it.” She nipped his shoulder with her teeth. “But somehow, I’ll suffer through and take one for team McKay.”

He smiled for the first time in what seemed like days. “Such a noble sacrifice.”

“I figured you’d appreciate it.” She angled forward to lick his nipple. Goose flesh rippled down his abdomen. “Besides. It is Valentine’s Day and I’ll get cranky if I don’t get laid.” She pressed kisses from the tip of his chin up his jawline to his ear. “Very, very cranky, since I’m pretty sure you didn’t get me a gift.”

“Dom, I don’t know—”

“Don’t tell me you’re not up for this.” She squeezed his erection. “Because I’m holding the ultimate lie detector and it’s saying… mount up.”

Cam groaned and rolled his hips into her stroking hand.

“You need a reminder of what’s good and a chance to forget the bad. Since the word ease pushed your buttons, how about this… Sir, will you let me have my wicked way with you?”

A bold move on Domini’s part, asking for control. Outside the bedroom they were equal partners in all things. But here, in their private space, with the door locked, Domini surrendered her sexual will to him. Completely. Without question.

“Say the word to me, Cam, so I don’t give you a reason to bend me over your knee and paddle my butt for insubordination.”

He twisted his fingers around the chain dangling from her neck, a symbol of the bond between them few would understand. She always knew exactly what he needed. He tugged her closer by the chain and murmured, “Yes. Make me forget.”

Domini kissed him with teasing sweetness that gradually heated into passion. She pinned his arms above his head and used every sexual trick in her repertoire to drive him wild. To blank his mind to everything but his frenzied need for her.

Then she connected their bodies and began to move on him. Taking her time, so he felt every sensuous glide of her soft skin over the rougher rasp of his. Whispering Ukrainian endearments in his ear. Each slide of their sweat-coated bodies drove them higher until finally they tumbled over the edge into that vortex of pleasure together.

Although winded—and sated—Cam wasn’t ready to return to reality. Didn’t want ugliness to intrude on the beautiful gift of peace Domini had given him. He wanted to stay in this cocoon for a little while longer. He rolled Domini to her back and whispered, “Again,” losing himself in her heat and softness and goodness.

Then he slept in her arms, in a surprisingly dreamless sleep.

The next morning Domini poked him to get up—way, way too early since he didn’t have to work and the kids were out of school.

Cam rolled over, pulling the pillow over his head, intending to sleep the day away.

He should’ve known better than to try and thwart his wife, the woman who regularly got six kids up and ready for the day. She opened their bedroom door and let the dog in. An open door was an open invitation, and soon Markus and Sasha climbed onto the bed, crawling all over him. Offering hugs, kisses and giggles as their wiggly bodies began to bounce on the mattress. Then the twins joined in the fun, laughing hysterically at their live game of Hop on Pop, which happened to be a favorite family book. Then Anton joined the fray. Showing off karate kicks and spins.

Cam grinned at his exuberant kiddos, having so much fun with the forbidden activity. If he still had both legs he probably would’ve joined them. So he egged them on.

A gasp. Then, “Cameron West McKay! You’re letting them jump on the bed?”

“Yep.” And wasn’t his wife a good little actress? Pretending to be indignant when she’d known that he needed to be surrounded by all their smiling faces first thing this morning.

“Off,” she said, pointing to each kid in turn.

“But, Mom—”

“Sorry, kids. Mommy is right. No more monkeys jumping on the bed.”

They reluctantly bounced off and raced out of the room, laughing.

Speaking of laughing… Where was Liesl? She was always in the thick of things. But since she, too, wore a pirate’s leg—the phrase she used to describe her prosthesis—she’d probably seen no point in trying to do a one-legged hop.

He dressed, using his crutches, not bothered in the least that his stump hung out. It’d taken a while for him to feel comfortable letting his family see that broken part of him.

He came back from the war… broken… on the inside. Why didn’t you reach out to him?

Dammit. He was not going there today. He was not Jeff Wingate.

Cam swung into the kitchen as saw Liesl sitting alone at the breakfast bar. She beamed a sunny smile his way as soon as she saw him. “Daddy!”

“Mornin’, punkin’.”

Liesl crawled onto his lap immediately after he sat down. She hugged him tightly and sighed heavily. Then her gap-toothed smile faded.

“Something wrong?”

“Mommy said you were too tired last night for my Valentine’s Day surprise.”

“Yes, I was. Sorry, sweetheart. Sometimes my job makes me tired.”

“Does it make you sad? ’Cause you looked kinda sad last night.”

Cam tucked a flyaway strand of blond hair behind Liesl’s ear. “Yeah, I was sad, too.”

“Why?”

He struggled to put it in terms she could understand without putting a rainbows-and-butterflies spin on it. “Because I saw a bad thing.”

His normally animated daughter wore a somber look. “I was scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“Scared that someone hurted you and that’s why you were so sad.”

“Oh, no, Liesl, honey. I’m sorry you were scared. No one hurt me. Doing my job… sometimes I see stuff that hurts me inside.”

She nodded and her pigtails bounced. “Sometimes, when I’m sad, my heart hurts.” Then she bent forward and placed a kiss on his chest. “Did that make it feel better?”

Tears sprang to Cam’s eyes. He pulled his precious girl closer to the heart she owned. “Yes, sweetheart, it really did.”

Liesl squirmed away. “Now can I give you the surprise?”

He chuckled at the rapid reminder of her short attention span. “By all means. What is it?”

“First, you gotta wear this.” She grabbed a gold paper crown she’d embellished with pink glitter glue swirls and tiny hearts cut from construction paper. “You get to be the King of Hearts.”

Cam froze. That was the title given to the king and queen of the junior winter formal. The title that Jeff Wingate had worn.

A happy, humming Liesl tugged the crown over his head, repositioning it until it was exactly how she wanted it. Then she noticed his change in posture. “Daddy, what’s wrong? Is the crown too tight?”

“No. It’s just…”

She placed her hands on his cheeks and stared into his eyes. “Does your heart hurt again? ‘Cause I can give it another kiss. Sometimes, it takes a whole bunch.”

And sometimes in a single instant, it just took the sweetness of one little girl, the happy screaming laughter of his kids, and the loving indulgence of his wife to set everything in his world right again.

That’s when he really understood he was nothing like Jeff Wingate. When the darkness encroached, he didn’t hide in it for long. He let his wife and children be the forces of nature that pulled him back into the light where he belonged.

“Are you worried that Mommy might feel bad because you’re the king? Because every king needs a queen, Daddy, everyone knows that. So Mommy has a crown, too. She’s the Queen of Hearts. I put purple hearts on yours because Mommy said a purple heart is a sign of bravery.”

“What color are the hearts on Mommy’s crown?”

“Red. Because red means love.”

“Yes, indeed it does. Mommy is all full of love, isn’t she?” He cleared his throat. “So are you. Making us matching crowns is a good surprise, Liesl. Thank you.”

Liesl snorted. “Daddy, that’s not the surprise.”